Charnel ground

You are trapped in a horrific video game, crawling with bloodthirsty ghouls. There is no way out.

When you reach the final level, the boss monster will eat you alive: GAME OVER.

It’s your move.

Many people reject Buddhist Tantra in favor of Consensus Buddhism, or modernized Theravada or Zen, because those seem realistic. These modernist Buddhisms sweep under the rug all the monsters, miracles, demons and deities of the Pali and Mahayana scriptures. Buddhism is supposed to be rational, scientific, and pragmatic.

Tantra, by contrast, seems incurably infested with magical superstitions.

I take the opposite view. Tantra is brutally realistic—because reality is brutal. It is Sutra (non-tantric Buddhism) that is a fantasy.

Sutra promises the path beyond all suffering. If you do everything right, you can escape this vale of tears into Neverland Nirvana.

Now there is a magical superstition. That fantasy runs far deeper than mere gods and demons. Spooks, after all, can be exorcized easily by declaring them to be psychological metaphors.

Tantra offers no salvation, no escape, no alternative, and no hope. Now that’s scientific, pragmatic, and sensible.

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On criticizing fellow Buddhists

When I was about 25, I had published some scientific papers, and was getting to be known in an international academic community. I was full of piss and vinegar; testosterone, rebellion, and altogether too much cleverness. I wanted to tear down an intellectual establishment that seemed corrupt, hidebound, and befogged by holy dogmas and hidden assumptions. I was quite rude, in print, to researchers whose ideas I thought were WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Then I started going to conferences, and I met many of the scientists who I previously knew only from their academic publications. Most of them were nothing like what I had imagined based on their work. Their personalities did not seem to match up with their writings.

I remember in particular meeting one researcher whose papers I had savaged. He was kind and friendly. It turned out that we had a shared love of birds, and we had an enjoyable discussion of corvids [ravens and their allies]. I felt quite ashamed, but also grateful for having learned something.

I’ve just been at the 2012 Buddhist Geeks Conference, and had something of the same experience. Some Buddhist leaders, whose work I’ve criticized on this blog, are clearly good guys. Seeing them in person, or interacting with them, gives a very different sense than their writing.

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Geek thiglés

Thigles at 2012 Buddhist Geeks Conference

I’m just back from the 2012 Buddhist Geeks Conference. It was Big Fun.

This is a picture, taken by Hokai Sobol, of spontaneously manifesting geek thiglés.

Geek thiglés can self-manifest when you get critical mass of geekery in close proximity. The picture, left to right, shows me, Daniel Ingram, Rin’dzin Pamo, and Ken McLeod. Hokai was just ahead of us, and together there was quite enough geekitude to spark thiglés.

Thiglé” literally means “dot” or “sphere” in Tibetan. According to some Tibetan cosmologies, all phenomena are actually composed of thiglés. However, they are normally invisible. Certain Dzogchen meditation practices enable you to see them. Around sufficiently advanced meditators, they may spontaneously self-manifest, so that ordinary people can see them as well. Maybe also cameras.

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Our Buddhism goes to eleven

This amplifier goes to eleven

The method of intensification

Nigel Tufnel, guitarist in the decreasingly-fictional heavy metal band Spinal Tap, explained that they could play louder than anyone else because their amplifiers went to eleven.

Tantra has a similar approach. It is not the polite Middle Way between extremes. It is the way of glorious, ridiculous excess.

Most tantric practices crank it.

Tantra has a gonzo, over-the-top attitude. Increasing passion motivates extreme action. Increasing spaciousness gives room for extreme weirdness. Increasing energy fuels extreme emotion.

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